Our Sangha was founded in 2001 by 6 members who had just been to Plum Village, the monastic community in France where Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (or “Thay”) is based. (“Thay” means “Teacher” in Vietnamese)
We meet most Wednesdays, from 7-9pm. We are funded by donations quarterly or £2 on the night. In summer we meet at Barham Church Hall, Church Road, Barham, IP6 0PT , and in winter in each others’ homes. After a few minutes discussing business, the evening starts with a guided meditation, led in turn by the members, followed by a Tea Ceremony and a Dharma sharing. In the Dharma sharing we benefit from each other’s insights and experience of the practice. We listen deeply while members share their experiences, and refrain from giving advice. Whatever is shared is confidential.
A small Dharma Study group meets every 1 or 2 months, at a member’s home, to watch a DVD of a talk by Thay.
Once every 3 months, we organise a day of mindfulness. This includes walking meditation, sitting meditation and other activities such as Touching the Earth, watching a video of Thay, Dharma sharing, etc. We all bring food and drink to share. For several years, we have organised an annual weekend retreat, in a hired centre.
Any surplus donations are shared between Thay’s charities in Vietnam and the Community of Interbeing’s Practice Centre Project and Bursary Fund.
Our Sangha practises the art of mindfulness. Our breath is an essential element in our practice of mindfulness. It is always with us and unites our body and mind. The sound of the bell is also a central feature as it reminds us to come back to our breath and dwell in the present moment.
Sitting meditation – There are many different postures recommended for sitting meditation. Thay recommends that we adopt a position where we feel comfortable and alert. This maybe cross-legged on a cushion, legs tucked underneath a stool or sitting upright on an ordinary chair. The breath should be deep and light. Our back should be straight. Our hands resting lightly in our lap or our knees. Our eyes can be lightly open or closed, and our mouth ideally in a gentle smile.
The period of meditation begins with 3 sounds of the bell and is brought to a close with 3 sounds of the bell.
Walking Meditation – When we practise walking meditation the breath is co-ordinated with our steps. When we hear the bell to start we take an in-breath and make one step with the left foot. On the out breath we take another step with the right foot. Then the cycle begins again. Throughout we are continually aware of the body.
Recommended reading – “The Blooming of the Lotus”, “The Miracle of Mindfulness”, both by Thich Nhat Hanh.